Monolith of Phobos
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
2016 – ATO Records
I confess, I’m a huge fan of both these dudes. Les Claypool has been rocking hard since Primus ruled college radio back in the 90s. His solo stuff is a melodic patchwork of gnarly funk rock with a tinge of Frank Zappa and best served with a side of the recently deceased Bernie Worrell, showcased perfectly in the excellent record The Big Eyeball in the Sky from 2004.
Lennon has released two of my favorite records in the last ten years. 2006’s Friendly Fire saw Sean coming into his own after years dabbling with Cibo Matto and Yoko Ono. And his record Midnight Sun with The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is always in heavy rotation ’round these parts. And not just because of the edible Charlotte Kemp. The common ground between these two musical magpies may involve similar tastes in analog sounds, psychedelia, and a controlled use of mind altering substances.
Monolith of Phobos sounds like key members of the Beatles and Pink Floyd pressed record during a lost weekend. And yes, I say Beatles as a whole because Lennon doesn’t just sound like his dad, he’s something of an amalgam of the fab four in their entirety. He’s got the druggy genius of John, the melodic tendencies of Paul, the chops of George, and dammit if he doesn’t play drums just like Ringo. Put him in a petri dish with Claypool and the results are gonna foam over the sides, escape the lab and wreak havoc on the local diner.
These tracks tend towards muscular mid tempo rockers to downright sprawling Floydian excursions. “Mr. Wright,” for example, is typical Claypool, chronicling a creepy voyeur that “sets up little cameras because he likes to watch her dance” because it “puts a twitch into his pants.” Les told Rolling Stone recently that “My biggest writing inspirations are a cross between Bukowski and Dr. Seuss.” Yeah, it shows. Whereas tracks like “Ohmerica” and “Bubbles Burst” have more in common with Syd Barrett-era Floyd refracted through the lens of Sean’s famous father.
“Cricket and The Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)” plays with Sean’s childhood memories of meeting Michael Jackson’s famous monkey-friend Bubbles while on the set of 1988’s Moonwalker.
The best song title of the year goes to “Breath of a Salesman,” which wouldn’t be out of place on a Primus record. The bass manages to bubble and crunch at the same time, and the guitars are drenched in some serious seventies wah. Claypool seems to sum up the exasperated aughts with the line “Hey you, I don’t want you to come talk to me, ponder my life philosophy, just leave me alone.”
The record ends with the amorphous “There’s No Underwear in Space” and hopefully with the aforementioned twitch in your pants.
The duo is on tour now where you may hear them tearing apart the Beatles gem “Tomorrow Never Knows.”